By Karen Pestaina
NEW YORK, NY (September 7, 2012) – Tennis Panorama News caught up with recent inductee to the International Tennis Hall of Fame Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten at the Legends Ball held during the US Open at Cipriani’s on East 42nd Street.
Kuerten spoke about what it means to him to be in the Hall of Fame and his involvement in his foundation.
From the International Tennis Hall of Fame website:
One of Brazilâ€™s most beloved and successful athletes, Gustavo â€œGugaâ€ Kuerten, received the highest honor in the sport of tennisâ€“ induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Guga was the worldâ€™s No. 1 player for 43 non-consecutive weeks, and he is a three-time major tournament champion, having captured French Open titles in 1997, 2000, and 2001.Â Gustavo Kuerten’sÂ induction was announced in a special presentation in SÃ£o Paulo at the offices of Banco do Brasil, a long-time sponsor of the tennis champion.
With his beaming smile, engaging personality, and high energy game, the lively atmosphere that Guga brought to tennis stadiums around the world was nothing short of extraordinary.Â Universally adored by both fans and peers, the Brazilian star is quick to state that the feeling is mutual, and that this support was integral to his success.Â Â
Often referred to as “King of the Clay Courts”, although it was not a final, Guga often cites his fourth round French Open match in 2000 as one of the most memorable and treasured of his career. After saving three match points for the win, Guga first etched his iconic heart in the clay court, in an expression of love for his fans.
In 1997, Guga was ranked world No. 66 and had just eight ATP World Tour level wins to his name when he entered Roland Garros. While no one may have seen Guga coming that year, when he lifted the championâ€™s trophy and thanked the fans with his giant smile, it was clear that a star had arrived.Â In the years that followed, Guga became one of the most dominant clay court players of his time. He captured the French Open title again in 2000 and 2001, and won a total of 20 singles titles and 8 doubles titles.
Guga started playing tennis when he was six years old, and his family was always very much part of his career. His father, a talented player himself, first taught Guga the game, before tragically passing away when Guga was just eight years old. Gugaâ€™s mother supported her sonâ€™s career emphatically. His older brother, Raphael, served as his business manager. His younger brother, Guilherme, who had cerebral palsy, was undoubtedly one of his biggest fans. Guga presented Guilherme every one of his tournament trophies, including the coveted Roland Garros trophies.
In 2000, for the first time in history, the No. 1 year-end position came down to the final match of season. Guga defeated superstar Andre Agassi in the match, breaking an eight-year reign of No. 1 finishes by Americans. It was the first time that a South American had ever been ranked world No. 1, a position Guga held for 43 weeks over his career.Â
That same year, Guga embarked on another important venture, to which he is still dedicated today. Inspired by his late brother, Guilherme, he opened the Institute Guga Kuerten to help disabled people. The institute is dedicated to providing developmental opportunities, sports, and education, as well as to promoting social inclusion throughout the nation. The institute is located in Gugaâ€™s hometown of Florianopolis, Brazil, and since its inception, it has assisted more than 40,000 people in over 168 Brazilian cities. Guga was awarded the ATP World Tourâ€™s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2003, and in 2010, he was honored with the Philippe Chatrier Award by the International Tennis Federation. Currently, he works in order to win a new challenge: to support the social activities developed by Institute Guga Kuerten.